As I was cleaning out my dresser drawer the other day, it dawned on me just how many different frequent flyer programs I had signed up for over the years. If anyone wanted to challenge me to a game of airline or hotel point card roulette, I would be ready to play at any time. Fortunately, I’ve gotten some software that I use personally, and with clients, that tabulates all of my frequent flyer programs including airline, hotel, car, and credit cards in one place every single night (e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want one of these). I can even see when points are posted from my last trip or when I have used them from my most recent vacation. Once you know exactly what you have for frequent flyer programs, then comes the hard part of ‘how to’ make the most of what you have. Here are five tips that can help you stretch your wallet.
- Look For Sale Items– A good example is when you use a program like American Express Membership Rewards, you can sort items by a ‘special’ category. This may allow you to find a product, service, or trip for a lower amount of points than normal and typically where you can find a good deal. (source: www.americanexpress.com as of 1/21/2013)Dyson DC40 Exclusive Multi Floor Upright Vacuum with Additional ToolsDyson Savings offer valid through January 31, 2013 or while supplies last. Was: 88,500 points Now: 68,540 points (Save: 19,960 points)
- Fly During The Right Times – If you travel during certain parts of the year, a round trip coach ticket may only cost you 25,000 miles (on some airlines only 20,000 miles). If you booked a flight with points within the high season, it could cost you 60,000 miles for the same trip. You could actually fly two people for the less than the price of one just by examining which times of the year are most opportunistic for point redemption.
|Miles shown are each way based on round-trip purchase. (source: www.delta.com)*First Class / Business Elite¹Applies to select published fares and specific fare classes. Please check with a Delta reservations representative for eligible fares applicable to your itinerary.
|Within Continental US, Alaska and Canada||12,500||20,000||30,000||22,500 /30,000*||40,000 /55,000*||50,000 /70,000*|
- Know Your Hotel Categories – For almost every time of hotel point program, they will categorize their properties into different levels when it comes to redeeming points. By knowing which individual hotels are in which categories (including location), you can maximize your overall points.
Categories 1–7 include standard rooms at Conrad® Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton™, Embassy Suites Hotels™, Hilton Garden Inn™, Hampton Inn™, Homewood Suites by Hilton™, Home2 Suites by Hilton™ and Hilton Grand Vacations™ hotels. (source: www.hhonors.com)
|Hotel category||HHonors Points required for 1 free night|
- Combine A Car Rental Company– Almost every major car rental company has a companion program available with one or more of the major airlines. It seems silly even if you aren’t a frequent flyer to pass up on free points when you take your vacation or two during the course of the year. For example, Hertz partners with more than 70 frequent flyer programs for mileage earning. Most North America-based programs follow the earnings model of 50 miles per day for 1-4 day rentals and 500 miles for rentals of five or more days. An interesting exception being American Airlines, where AAdvantage members earn one mile per dollar spent. If you are on the road for business travel, it’s best to stick with one car rental place as this is where you’ll gain your greatest amount of traction.
- Know Your Expiration Dates – Not all frequent flyer programs are created alike. So whether you use our system or a website like www.usingmiles.com, tracking these expiration dates can help you make the most of your hard earned points. According to usingmiles.com, consumers rack up over $48 billion points per year. How many of us have lost track of this ‘free’ money only to be disappointed that they aren’t there anymore when it comes time to plan our family vacation?
I must admit that I hate passing up a free program and probably have subscribed to more of them than your average Joe. However, with today’s tracking tools it is easier than ever to incorporate this line item as part of your overall budgeting plan as the CEO of your family finances. With some smart money moves you too can stretch these points to help you plan your next far away vacation getaway or buying a few of those holiday gifts in the off season so you are prepared come holiday time!
Written by:Ted Jenkin CFP®, AAMS®, AWMA®, CRPC®, CMFC®, CRPS®
Editor in Chief of Your Smart Money Moves
Co-CEO and Founder of oXYGen Financial, Inc – The Leaders in Gen X & Y Financial Advice and ServicesTed Jenkin is one of the foremost knowledgeable professionals in giving financial advice to the X and Y Generation.Find us on Facebook here – CLICK CLICK